PLYMOUTH — Comcast last week announced the creation of three community partnerships in metropolitan Detroit, valued at more than $55,000, to help 250 more families get connected online at home through the Internet Essentials program.
Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest, most comprehensive broadband adoption initiative, is designed to help close the digital divide. It is available to families whose children are eligible for free- or reduced-priced lunch at school.
The partners include:
* Way Academy, a Detroit-based charter high school that operates on a 50-50 blended model of classroom and distance learning;
* The Westwood Cyber High School, part of Westwood Community Schools, a distance learning program that services students in Wayne County; and
* Royal Oak School District and the Royal Oak Foundation for Public Education, the first Michigan-based partnership with a school district and a nonprofit education foundation.
“Internet Essentials is not just about people getting access to the Internet at home; it’s also about what having the Internet at home can do to help families get ahead,” said Tim Collins, regional senior vice president for Comcast. “With it, a father can apply for a job, a mother can research health care services, a teenager can study for the SATs or a youngster can learn to read or do math.”
Through Internet Essentials, Way Academy and Westwood Cyber High School are funding the $9.95 monthly fee for Internet in the homes of eligible families whose children attend their schools. In addition to Internet service (download speeds of up to 3 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 0.768 mbps), each family receives at no additional charge a modem, Constant Guard Protection Suite ($360 value) and top-rated Norton Security Suite and Identity Guard.
Combined, Way and Westwood expect approximately 150 families to participate in Internet Essentials this year. In addition, through the Way Program, a statewide network of blended schools serving approximately 100 districts and 1,500 students, many partner districts have taken advantage of Internet Essentials program.
Royal Oak School District and the Royal Oak Foundation for Public Education are funding two years of Internet Essentials Internet service as well as a computer (valued at $149.99 plus tax) for up to 100 eligible families in the Royal Oak School District.
Said Shawn Lewis-Lakin, superintendent of the Royal Oak school district, noted that “no individual, no foundation, no corporation working alone can close the digital divide. When schools, foundations and corporations come together with common purpose and commitment, together we make a positive difference for children.” On Feb. 28, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report, reaffirming that the digital divide still persists. The survey, of nearly 2,500 middle and high school teachers, found that 79 percent of students are asked by teachers to access and download assignments from an online site.
These teachers see disparities in access to digital tools having at least some impact on their students. More than half (54 percent) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18 percent) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.
As a result, eighty-four percent of the teachers were also concerned about the increased disparities between low- and high-income students and school districts.
Since its launch 16 months ago, Internet Essentials has become the largest and most comprehensive initiative focused on closing the digital divide in America, connecting more than 150,000 families.
Earlier this month, Comcast announced the following enhancements to Internet Essentials that are rolling out later this year:
* Expanding eligibility to parochial school and homeschool students, including cyber/online schools, bringing the estimated total number of eligible families we serve to 2.6 million, nationwide;
* Launching an online application request form later this spring so families can more easily and conveniently order an application online anytime at their local library, community center or at a friend’s house; and
* Introducing Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards so our non-profit partners and others can pre-purchase up to a year of Internet Essentials service for eligible families.